VILNIUS - People around all presidential candidates were subjected to checks by the Lithuanian State Security Department (SSD) during last year's election process, its director said on Tuesday, adding that the intelligence agency had the legal basis for doing so.
"I said once again that the inner circle of all candidates had been subjected to checks," Darius Jauniskis said after a closed-door meeting of the Seimas Committee on National Security and Defense (CNSD).
"I answered questions about what basis information is checked and collected on and what laws we follow," he said. No doubt, there is a (legal) basis. The SSD is not acting against the law. It always respects the law and works in accordance with the law."
The CNSD held the meeting on Tuesday to discuss the situation following a whistleblower’s report that the SSD could have unlawfully collected information.
It was reported last week that a high-ranking intelligence officer had informed MP Vytautas Bakas, who then headed the CNSD, that, acting on orders from the top SSD officials, he collected in 2018-2019 information on people in the inner circle of Gitanas Nauseda, then a presidential candidate, and Lithuania's ex-foreign minister and long-standing diplomat Vygaudas Usackas.
Bakas says the material provided by the whistleblower shows that the SSD could have interfered in political processes.
The SSD insists it did not collect information on these people, but admits that it could have checked information while carrying out its task of investigating potential interference by foreign countries into the election.
Bakas forwarded the material available to him to the Prosecutor General's Office and the SIS, but neither of the bodies opened a pre-trial investigation. The former CNSD chairman then asked the Board of the Seimas to initiate a parliamentary inquiry based on the whistleblower's report.
The Seimas committee last month was informed by the Prosecutor General's Office and the SIS about their inquiry into the whistleblower's report.
CNSD Chairman Dainius Gaizauskas then told reporters that the inquiry had taken ten months and found no signs of a crime.